Friday, August 04, 2006

Newsflash: Parenting is Hard!

OC is at a Care Bears picnic event at her gymnastics school today. Three blessed hours to myself at the library! I'm so excited, as though it were Clinique Bonus Time or something.

The library gets crowded early. I got here at opening time (10 am) and wisely chose a computer away from the kid's section. I thought I was being all smart (because kids are loud and annoying but not adults) until an elderly woman sat down at a computer behind me and proceeded to announce to the entire place that she needed help. What was the dear woman needing help with? Getting to the online medical directory to find an answer to one geriatric problem or another? Sign up for some savings from AARP? No, she needed to find Nordstrom online. And apparently, this can't be done in a whisper. The librarian helped her, then explained how there was a Seniors and the Internet class offered on such and such day and time. Where are the stern librarians when you need them?

The good health, physical and emotional well-being of my daughter are two of the most important goals for me as a parent. To think I am not achieving - or even coming close to achieving - these have left me feeling like parenting has been kicking my ass this week.

I thought this summer at home with OC would be one freewheeling frenzy of fun. Okay, not ALL fun, but lots of fun interspersed with keeping up with gardening, making games out of cleaning the house, and taking frequent trips to places like the zoo and the beach. (High standards, anyone?)

Guess what reality looks like? The garden is full of weeds, cleaning is not fun nor easy with a child who is hard to fool into thinking it is so, and we haven't been to the zoo or the beach once despite living in such close proximity to both. I really didn't think we'd have fun all day every day, but I had hoped things would change for the better when I took her out of full-time daycare and stayed home with her.

My daughter is five years old and seems to be experiencing trouble doing anything on her own for fear of one thing or another. Recently, there was the "There is a volcano under the bathtub!" incident, for instance. She becomes upset when she doesn't know my whereabouts. When I prepare her fully for my exodus outdoors, this doesn't stop her from checking on me to see if I'm still there. If I move out of sight, she will go to where she knew I was last to begin looking for me. I can hear the urgency in her voice as she calls for me.

She also argues with me. Today she asked me, "What is that sound?" I said it sounded like velcro. Immediately she said, "No, it's not that." (P.S. It actually WAS velcro.) Why does she ask me if she just wants to argue with me?

She used to be so independent. Is she regressing? If so, she's been doing so for months now and I don't understand if this is healthy and normal or not. She used to spend 8.5+ hours in daycare every day, and it was understandable why she was clingy and needed me all the rest of the time. I thought being at home with me would solve this, would ease her fears so that eventually she would regain her independence and would, knowing that I was there for her, relax. I suppose I was optimistic to expect it to abate immediately, but now we're two months into nonstop mommy-daughter togetherness, and she is just as clingy and needy as ever. Now I get to experience the manifestion of whatever is wrong, 12 hours a day! All by myself!

She exaggerates when she is hurt. A barely stubbed toe will warrant tears which are obviously forced. My first reaction is to discern if she is really hurt or not, which I'm not entirely secure in my assessments. She does this so often it frustrates me, because how will I know when she is REALLY hurt if she fakes it so often? I tell her the story of the boy who cried wolf, always telling her I want to know what she has to say but that I also want to know the truth and how important it is to tell the truth.

I believe she is hurting, that it is emotional and not physical. I often sit with her and ask her to tell me what she feels and thinks. Her ability to express difficult emotions is limited, so I try to help get her started. What I know so far is that she misses her dad and her grandpa. She goes to visit her dad every other weekend when he can be bothered to come and get her. Her dad misses a lot of time with her so he can go to work. His work often requires travel and a lot of last minute scheduling, and he will not refuse work. He lives at home with his parents, and so often they will come and get OC for his weekends, so that when he comes home for a few hours on Saturday he can see her. This has to have some effect on her.

As for grandpa, he died three years ago. Not much else to say about that.

I don't know what to say to her, except "I know" and "I'm sorry". I tell her about my experience with my own parent's divorce to let her know I went through it, too. I don't know that it helps. I don't mean to take away from her feelings, and so am careful not to imply that since I know what she's dealing with, she'll be okay so hurry up and get happy.

I don't know what to do. I have to do something, because our time together is often miserable. She needs SOMETHING from me, I don't know what. I need to eventually go and water the garden and make dinner and things, and I can't do those things with her attached to my hip. Once I got so irritated that I told her to go play, that I had work to do, then I got up and left. Her face changed immediately and she got serious. I could tell I had either scared her or reached her.

The biggest obstacle I have with all of this is, I question whether it is normal development stages, or if it has to do with the D-I-V-O-R-C-E. Are these behaviors consequences of that? Or are they because her bio dad is absent from her life when he is supposed to be there, like on the weekends that he chooses to work instead?

I would greatly love to hear from someone who has experienced something similar. I would like to know what you think, especially if you have been in this situation. What I want to do now is focus on making things better for OC.

OC self portrait.


Anonymous said...

Aww! She's beautiful! Finally found your blog after Blogher. I didn't realize you hung out with Kristy later on! Rats! I missed it.

It sounds like she wants a playmate. I expect Spencer to entertain himself with his legos, his action figures, his puzzles and his books. Sometimes we work together to make dinner.

I don't know if that was helpful. I would try to spend less time with her and more time doing what else you need to do.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I love your book list. You need to add The Red Tent and The Kite Runner! Both are excellent.

lynsalyns said...

I wish I had some words of wisdom for you. Keep loving her the best you can. I can tell she is the light of your life.

Parenting? The hardest gig EVER.

Izzy said...

I'm not sure how helpful this will be but I went through a lot of those types of behaviors when my daughter was four and five and there hasn't been any divorce or other major events in her life. I guess what I mean is that it might just be the age.

Jess said...

I'm not a parent but I can say she certainly looks happy in the picture! The most important thing (I think) is to love your kiddie and be there unconditionally for her. Sounds like you are and this is all part of growing up. :)

M J said...

I am going to have to echo Jess here, as I am most definitely not a parent, but she looks like a happy, mischievous little girl, with gorgeous (!!) blue eyes. I can see how much you love her reflected back in her smile.

Lady M said...

Thanks for stopping by my site! I heard your blogname at BlogHer, so we must have attended at least one panel or class together. :)

Do you read Mary P's blog? She's a mom and home daycare provider who has written great stuff that I've referenced on temper tantrums and all kinds of behaviors. She's now co-hosting "Partners in Parenting" where she takes questions and shares her experience with dozens of kids.

If you're interested, here's her home site:

and Partners in Parenting:

Best wishes! Your little girl looks so cute and happy.

Anonymous said...

Hang in there...your descriptions are all typical for 5 year olds.

Anonymous said...

She's so pretty! My kids both reside firmly in the "dramatic injuries" camp, and my son is almost (gasp) ten years old. I sometimes wonder if I am the biggest profit generator for the Band-Aid corporation.

I was attempting to think of something intelligent to say, and I'm not sure if this qualifies at all, but here goes.

I'm not divorced, but my husband is in the military and we've had to deal with a lot of deployments. The kids almost universally are clingy and difficult to deal with a lot of the time when that happens, or when his work schedule switches to nights (twice a year). It sounds like you're doing everything in your power for her, and jess and mj are right. It looks like her eyes are lit up in that picture, so you're doing something right. Hang in there!